Thursday, March 21, 2013

YOU'RE NEXT (2011) movie review

You're Next (2011) d. Wingard, Adam (USA)

I’m sure 90% of the folks who strolled into that SXSW midnight screening had the same thought on their mind: “Please let this be worth the wait.” Following its buzztastic September debut at the Toronto International Film Festival followed by an equally enthusiastic bow at Austin’s Fantastic Fest two weeks later, You’re Next has been THE film on horror fans’ wish lists for what seems like ages. Lionsgate promptly scooped it up for distribution...and then proceeded to quietly hold all bets for over a year, parceling it out to a few select festivals before finally announcing a big screen bow in August of 2013. How could any scrappy little indie flick, especially one that lives solidly in the “home invasion” subgenre (don’t they know that's yesterday’s news?), hold up under such immense hype?

By being pretty f**king awesome, that’s how.

Barbara Crampton (welcome back, doll!) and Rob Moran are a proud mater/pater team celebrating their wedding anniversary by staging a low-key but long overdue reunion with their four adult children at their sumptuous upscale (and isolated) country home. The three boys (Joe Swanberg, A.J. Bowen and Nicholas Tucci) clearly have a few pecking order issues, while lone female offspring Amy Siemetz just wants to spread love and happiness with her struggling filmmaker beau Ti West (yes, as in House of the Devil director Ti West). Each of the lads also has a consenting partner, the most striking being Bowen’s companion, played by Sharni Vinson. Of course, all are unaware of the previous night's double murder within the neighboring wooded cottage, and of the masked menace waiting outside the window.

Up to this point, director Wingard (Pop Skull, A Horrible Way to Die) has made interesting films that never cleared the ballpark fences, utilizing a free-floating handheld aesthetic resembling a cross between jogger-cam and a drunken sorority girl’s iPhone. But in shedding the arty posturing intended to conceal his paltry budgets, he proves a nimble manipulator of emotion and nerve, constructing outstanding build-ups of tension that ignite like napalm. It’s a welcome wonder to behold. This isn’t to say that Wingard has lost his personality or is solely focused on delivering mainstream thrills; on the contrary, his inspired use of Dwight Twilley Band's lost 70s hit "Looking for the Magic" draws worthy comparisons to Tarantino’s appropriation of “Stuck in the Middle with You” for Reservoir Dogs.

The cast is flawless, from the family members listed above to indie kingpin Larry Fessenden’s pre-credits cameo, and screenwriter Simon Barrett provides lovely dysfunctional chatter before unleashing the terrifying vignettes that whittle down our warm body count. No spoilers, but Vinson makes the most of her screen time; don’t be surprised if this Aussie powerhouse becomes a household name in the next couple years. She’s that good.

For those wondering, there is a decent amount of splatter, with a knockout closing sequence that immediately had me wondering — after I’d finished cheering aloud — why we’d never seen that particular method of dispatch before. It’ll be interesting to see if the edit unspooled before the SXSW crowd is the one that will play theatrically, but in retrospect, I can’t see them needing to cut much (if anything). Happy days are here again in terms of what the MPAA will stand.

In the spirit of full disclosure, You’re Next is as good as you’ve heard...on the first viewing. Loving it as I did, I opted to revisit it toward the end of the festival and, for better or worse, due to the plot machinations and minus the surprise factor, it’s less revelatory than original appearances might indicate. Not to say it wasn’t enjoyable, but much like a haunted house loses its mystique once traveled, the law of diminishing returns is definitely in evidence. However, when this is the worst that can be said about a cinematic rollercoaster ride this proficient, that’s saying something indeed.

Highly recommended.

--Aaron Christensen, HorrorHound Magazine


  1. REALLY keen to see this one, not sure when we will be getting it here in the UK.

    1. I'm hoping it gets some love from the general public. If Wingard can do "mainstream" this well, I want people to give him money.

  2. I finally got to see this today and was suitably blown away. I had the 10:30 screening all to myself, though, which I hope was a function of the earliness of the hour and not the public's interest in the film.